Getting fit what I’ve done.
It’s clear when I look in the mirror I’ve lost a bit of weight. So much so that a few people are now asking me how I’ve done it. As I’ve navigated my way through nutrition courses, GP consultations, advice from medical friends & lots & lots of learning, trialing & testing I’ve got what seems to be a pretty sound baseline of advice which I think would work for everyone.
Your body is a massively complex bio mechanical machine. Your heart a muscle. Both need treating well, exercised & strengthened, and if you don’t and remain sedentary, you increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, T2 Diabetes – these are serious things. It is not a bad idea to assume you’re just as likely to have T2 Diabetes (as it’s so incredibly common) and with that assumption make pre-emptive changes now. I’m a massive fan of data, and I think everyone as matter of course, should use a Fitbit, track their food, do random finger prick tests, measure their blood pressure and do genetic screening using companies like 23&me. Prevention is better than cure and you’ll be doing your bit on saving strain on the NHS to boot. Sounds like too much? Bare with me.
Now, here’s a caveat. I’m still fat and I don’t think for one minute just because I’ve lost weight (3.7 stone and counting) I get to preach about others and how YOU should do things MY way. I’m merely pointed out not only what’s worked for me, but what is pretty fundamental common sense advice which if you take, you’d be on a pretty decent path I’m sure of it.
My trigger for life changes (and let me be clear, I was always pretty healthy) is middle age, & the risk of hidden illnesses such as T2 diabetes and cardiac problems along with high blood pressure. All things that are genetically feasible considering my family history & my physiology. So I never wanted to be a victim, and wanted to strive to impact the life ‘numbers game’ and skew my future for the positive. This desire to take charge is what drives me to change – maybe a little fear too which in this instance is quite healthy when it comes to motivation!
Oh one more thing – Nor is this blog post an exhaustive health post either, the Internet is full of that so go and get your fix elsewhere. It’s merely some common sense plain English advice.
So, grab yourself a leaf of Kale…strap in, and let’s crack on as I drop some knowledge bombs on you.
Hack your mind.
Before you embark on any life affirming change especially with food and weight loss, you really have to understand how your mind works, and your personal relationship with food. I certainly looked at mine and realized I was an emotional eater. (common). No amount of diet advice is going to help if deep down inside you don’t know why you make the decisions you make. If you’re motivated, you may need to understand how to keep motivated. If you’re lazy, maybe you’ll need to work out how to be less lazy. But rest assured, if you don’t think about how you think, nothing will work.
So what does this mean? Firstly, identify how you think of food. Are you an emotional eater like me? Do you know what your triggers are? What are your key weight gain problems – portion size? Bad food? Have a think. Try & trick your mind to stop yourself from falling into pitfalls. Set yourself bitesize targets at the outset, as the more you do, the more you’ll want to do. Also, don’t punish yourself if you have an off day, just make sure the off day doesn’t turn into an off week.
Remember, the changes you make you will need to do for the rest of your life, so you really need to think about how everything you do from this point forward will work forever, not just tomorrow, or next week or month.
Finally, dietary and health advice is quite personal as everyone is quite different. Some of the things I’ve found in my quest for health is a lot of advice suitable for one person isn’t right for another. So my guidelines are just that, down-the-middle guidelines which will work for almost everyone. A bodybuilder will have a completely different dietary requirement to someone with health problems, or someone with high blood pressure, vs someone who is fat or someone who has Diabetes, so bare that all in mind.
Must Do’s & some facts.
Like it or not, here’s some indisputable things you really need to consider if you’re considering proper weight loss and staying healthy.
- Smoking / Vaping – seriously its killing you. You need to stop, now. Do it.
- Carbonated drinks – Coke in particular, as far as I’m concerned is as bad as smoking (contentious I know, but there, I’ve said it. Sue me). Considerable amounts of sugar along with high doses of Aspartame is potentially carcinogenic to the body, highly addictive, ruins your teeth – quite simply, stop.
- Caffeine, you really need to keep caffeine to once-in-a-blue-moon treat, anything more than that and you’re playing with fire.
- Carbohydrate – nothing wrong with carbs, but most people eat far too much, and incorrectly loading on carbs will cause bloating and rapid weight gain (as much as +/- 3lbs a week)
- You MUST exercise along with a diet. Do both and you’ll see weight loss quite quickly. You cannot offset bad diet choices with exercise – that’s not how it works. So forget going for a run and ‘burning’ 500 calories, and then eating an extra 500 etc – that’s not how dieting works.
- You MUST be consistent. Positive choices need to be done again and again, without fail. You’re re-training & reprogramming your body’s physiology and how it reacts to what you put in to it along with how your mind treats this new regime, so just think carefully about the choices you make & how you make them.
- You need to drink water. The absolute essential component for life on the planet & your body needs it.
- Stick to brown carbohydrate, so that’s wholemeal pasta, brown rice & items such as sweet potato vs white bread, white pasta, and white rice. It releases glucose slower into the blood, provides energy for far longer, bloats you less & generally is a bit healthier.
- Not all fruit is good (especially if you’re controlling sugar intake) and consider fruit like banana’s when over ripened dump more fructose into your blood than is ideal. Grapes are also not great if you’re watching sugar intake.
Balanced Portion Control
For an everyday person, you’d do well to take a look at the NHS eat well plate, and understand about how you should load your plate. Your meal should be balanced, with fat, protein, carbohydrate and vegetables. Learn how to meal prep & try & consider prepping your meals in advance (read my post here) the less you have to think the more likely you are to make smarter choices. I ensure I have a good solid well balanced meal every evening and then during the day I eat my prepped calorie controlled meals which are designed to keep my energy up & fuel me throughout the day.
A typical male needs around 2500 calories a day but for weight loss you need to bring this down. Too much too soon & you’ll crash, but I found if I got my daily calorie intake down to about 1600 and exercised, the weight came off. Ideally you want to split your carbs up across all your meals, but I happen to be disciplined enough to not bother during the day. A typical days meals for me then looks like;
- 65g of natural porridge oats made with water
- Small Apple
- Green tea
- Vegetables, chicken (or fish)
- Small Apple x 2
- Nuts or a piece of fruit
- Tin of fish (Mackerel, Tuna etc)
- A balanced meal usually containing the only real carbs of the day
Throughout the above, I’ll drink a few litres of chilled water, and have no more than 1-2 cups of coffee. Small tweaks to my life such as red top milk (fully skimmed) make all the difference. I didn’t have sugar or salt, but they are also removed almost completely from my diet. Again, small things but all make a difference overall.
I’m not sure if the above looks depressing, I don’t think it is, and I do this for seven to eight days in a row, and then treat myself to 1-2 days off. A day off includes an allowance for alcohol and maybe a health aware take away and I’m fit to go again for the next sprint. If you don’t treat yourself, it’s impossible to keep up. Just make sure those treats are not super bad or excuses to undo your hard work!
A note on sugar
If you’re watching your sugar intake, you need to spend a bit of time understanding how your body treats the sugar you put into it. (great article in the link) Sugar in liquid form is more concentrated, enters your blood stream quicker & gives your body a harder time to get rid of it. The more liquid there is (think massive bottles of Lucozade), the more concentrated. So for example, a nearly raw or just ripe banana is a good piece of fruit, the minute it gets to over ripe, it breaks down and it suddenly becomes a bad choice, fruit or not. Think about it.
Health smoothies, dumping in several items of fruit, then pulsing all that, adding skimmed milk and maybe honey or something, and you’ve got a big ol’ cup of diabetes. So say no to the health smoothie, really.
Your body’s ability to produce insulin and the amount of sugar in your body over a period of time is measured in mm/mol using an HbA1c measurement (read this here). If you’re interested, you should have one of these tests and maybe use skin finger pricking to see the impact certain meals have on your body. Your typical HbA1c reading needs to be under 50, ideally around 43 or so.
The reality is simple. You need to use up more calories than you consume. That’s it. No hokey pokey, just plain & simple. My exercise of choice is running, yours maybe biking, swimming, it doesn’t matter but you need to do it several times a week. I run, between 4 and 10k slowly building up distance throughout the week and finishing on a flurry high (not the McDonalds kind) on a Friday, so I have a reason to celebrate with a cold beer.
Knowing I’m going to treat myself at the end of the week encourages me to keep going and makes me constantly push to do more. Eventually, my mind reprogrammed to know hard work and restrictions in the week means at the weekend it gets a bit of rest. My body uses what I put into it more efficiently and I’m more full after smaller portions than I used to be.